Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, Police Chief McLay and former Chief Nate Harper are to be commended for their efforts and determination in creating a positive atmosphere and a never-give-up attitude that led to the recent police recruits class being 31 percent Black.
Why do I include Harper? Because even though the fight for more Blacks and women on the police force, fire department, and in the city as a whole dates back to the 1960s and probably before that, Harper re-opened the struggle to get more Black police recruits.
I remember when I first moved to the news department with the Courier in the mid-1970s, and one of the first stories I did was an interview with most of the commanders of the then-No. 9 police station. It concerned their views of the work performance by the Black police officers hired under the Affirmative Action law, pushed by then-NAACP President and police sergeant Harvey Adams.
The law was, for every White male hired, there had to be one Black male, Black female and White female. After hiring some of their best officers, there was a backlash by conservatives stating that unqualified Blacks were being hired and that it was reverse discrimination. The law was repealed and new rules and guidelines were set forth that made it even harder for Blacks to get on the force. Those that were on the force remained but the percentage continued to dwindle as the years passed with few, if any, Blacks making the force.
None of the anti-Affirmative Action people complained during those previous years when family members, neighbors, and friends of White police officers were hired.
The results of my interviews were that all of the commanders I talked to said the Blacks hired under Affirmative Action were every bit as good as the Whites. They said that it actually gave them more flexibility in fighting drug trafficking and the women performed far better than men in domestic violence confrontations.
I also remember a meeting with Chief Harper and former police officer Brenda Tate a few years ago in which they discussed their efforts in trying to get more Blacks on the force, and how something or someone kept blocking recruits that had been nationally-recruited by the Chief himself.
What Harper and Tate did not have was a mayor committed to this effort, which led to an ACLU suit that won damages for the Black candidates who were dismissed for various reasons.
Mayor Peduto is to be commended for his effort at continuing the commitment to the employment of not only the police force, but diversity across the board in city government.
“Increasing police hiring with an added focus on recruiting qualified minority candidates has been a top priority of my administration and will continue to be moving forward,” Mayor Peduto recently said in a Courier story by Christian Morrow.
But just to make sure, I urge the Courier, NAACP, Rashad Bydsong, “Hop” Kendrick, and other activists to keep reminding the mayor and his people that diversity is the only option for this city to grow.
One such activist, Tim Stevens, wrote a letter to the mayor and probably everyone at the Courier.
“These numbers (6 Blacks out of 19 recruits) are much more reflective of what we hope to see in future classes for the City of Pittsburgh,” said Stevens, head of B-PEP.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of equal employment in the City of Pittsburgh’s hiring across the board. It will stay on an upward trajectory only if the Black community stays informed and keeps the pressure on all our political leaders to include Blacks when it comes to employment. After all, our tax dollars are funding all of this.
In other news, the top national news story is; Republicans may not hold a vote on their Health Care plan if they can’t get 50 votes. Instead of simply working with the Democrats to repair the Affordable Care Act together, they would rather thousands of people suffer and die from the lack of health care. Still no news on what President Trump is doing to help the Black communities throughout this country. Isn’t he supposed to be the president of all the people? C’mon Trump, Give Blacks a reason to vote for the Republican Party.
(Ulish Carter is the former managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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